UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry                                     Chemical Safety Office/ EH&S

Safety Notes

Newsletter #5                                                                  July 1997



Summer always brings a more relaxed atmosphere to UCLA. The dress is looser, the attitudes less serious, and the timing less hurried. Do not let this influence your attitudes on SAFETY, however. Accidents happen as frequently in the summer as any other time of the year. As a matter of fact, two of the biggest recent accidents in the Department happened in the summer. In the research and instructional laboratories in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, closed toed shoes must be worn. Again, we seem to be bucking the fashion trend of open - toed shoes, sandals and even "flip-flops", but they are inappropriate for laboratory wear. The obvious reasons are that chemicals, spills, splashes, bottles, glass, and a wide variety of dangers exist for the feet.

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In research and instructional labs, closed toed shoes must be worn. Open toed shoes, "flip-flops", and sandals are prohibited!

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bytes) It is also dangerous from the standpoint of moving boxes, equipment, solvents etc. Many people who work in laboratories or around hazardous waste are required to wear steel toed shoes. At UCLA we require lab workers and students who are in labs to wear closed toed shoes. This means NO SANDALS, "FLIP-FLOPS", BARE FEET are to be worn in any laboratory!

The Personal Protective Equipment policy also requires everyone who works in a lab to wear safety glasses, or goggles, lab coats, and gloves where appropriate. There is a very serious reminder on the proper gloves to wear when handling chemicals.


A Dartmouth College chemist, whose specialty was the dangers of heavy metals, died of mercury poisoning in June, ten months after spilling a few drops of dimethyl mercury on her disposable latex gloves while performing a lab experiment. A study by an independent laboratory showed that dimethyl mercury can pass through rubber latex gloves quickly, usually without damaging them. Although laboratories that use dimethyl mercury are rare, the point is that one must be aware of the permeation of particular chemicals through protective gloves. Gloves are not universally protective, and sometimes not protective at all, as can be seen from this tragic case. Information on the permeability rate and the breakthrough times and the suitability of particular gloves can be obtained from glove manufacturers and from standard references. (CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety, 4th ed. A.K. Furr, ed.) Image21.gif (1847 bytes)

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The use of skateboards, bicycles, and other modes of transport, including rollerblades are prohibited in the hallways, labs, and corridors of the Department. These are intrinsically unsafe in a building such as this where people continuously transport hazardous chemicals and breakable glassware.

Included in the list of annoying habits, students lounging in the hallways while waiting for labs to open has to be mentioned. Besides blocking traffic and causing much concern to employees and faculty, it is unsafe to sit in the corridors and extend ones legs into the hallway. You never know what could be spilled in that hallway or what could fall on those improperly clad feet!

Although most of this information is common sense, it bears repeating, since all of these conditions have been reported to the Chemical Safety Office at one time or another.


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When the fire alarm sounds in the building(s), it is essential that everybody evacuates. Since no one knows if the fire is real, or a false alarm, one has to assume it is an actual fire!

Remember to look around your workspace before you leave and grab your keys, purse or wallet, since it may be hours before you are allowed back in. Shut down your computer, if time permits.Time after time people have become stranded because they left their keys inside.

While it is true that there have been some false alarms in the Chemistry and Biochemistry complex, many of the alarms were set off by actual conditions which caused smoke and heat detection.


Never assume the alarm is false, EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY!

During the month of August, the fire alarm system will be tested again, for the newly constructed South wing. We will be notified in advance from Ron Baron, the Operations Manager, when these tests will take place. They will undoubtedly cause annoyance and inconvenience. In the meantime, do not assume that a fire alarm is "just a test" unless you know for sure that a test is taking place on that day, at that time.


Bill Peck     Chemical Safety Officer      4204 Young Hall     (20)6-3661